Gibson Achurch stood outside the Beaufort Academy gym recently in street clothes, looking like a high school senior less a few wisdom teeth.
The Eagles quarterback had undergone the dental procedure earlier in the day, but made it to his school for pictures and to talk about the upcoming season.
This is his final year. He doesn't want to miss anything and hopes the Eagles can climb to at least a .500 record in 2012, something they haven't done since he first started at quarterback as a sophomore.
He'll have to help do it with a fresh set of faces at the skill positions. Jack Griffith and Billy Dailey, who combined to rush for close to 2,000 yards in 2011, have graduated, leaving young faces in their place.
"Obviously, we don't have some players as skilled as them," Achurch said. "But I do believe our other running backs and wide receivers can step up to the plate and get it done. I think with practice, we can be as good as we were last year, if not better."
The Eagles finished 3-8 a season ago, their second consecutive season with three wins. They were 2-4 in SCISAA 8-Man Region 2.
To improve those numbers would require a significant contribution from some underclassmen who have been in the program a long time. Beaufort Academy coach Wheatley Alford, in his fourth season, is ready with a list of names of those who will be counted on.
Tucker Trask, a sophomore who played junior varsity much of 2011, will play wideout. Xavier Westergard is another sophomore wideout, though a fourth-year player for Beaufort Academy. Achurch said Westergard is much-improved. Eighth-grader Jackson Warren will start at center. Junior Brandon Massalon and senior Bryan Strawn will start at the guard positions and flank their young center.
After enjoying a load of talent at the skill positions in recent seasons, Alford now says his offensive line should become the team's strength. The unit has the build to do well, Achurch said.
"They're not too tall, but they are really strong and if they get -- every year we've had new coaches who teach new techniques -- with the right technique, I think they can actually be really good," Achurch said.
Achurch will lead the way. He threw for more than 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior, with only three interceptions. Assistant coach and offensive coordinator Jeff O'Hara is back for his second season and, even though the Eagles are running some new things, Achurch has that familiarity for the first time.
Mark Painter is also back to coach the defense, which Alford called a solid group.
Alford was encouraged by a recent jamboree. Against First Baptist, a larger school, the Eagles battled to a 6-6 tie during the first quarter.
The Eagles open the season Friday at Jefferson Davis Academy, a team Beaufort Academy defeated 56-0 in 2011. Alford said he's confident in the younger group's ability to perform.
"They showed signs of really picking it up and going with it," he said. "They're young, they don't know the offense as well as they should, but that will come with time."
Stadium: Merritt Field
Region: SCISAA 8-Man Region 2
Coach (years at school): Wheatley Alford (Fourth year, 7-24)
2011 results: 3-8
Key losses: RB Jack Griffith, RB Billy Dailey
Top returning starters: QB/DB Gibson Achurch, RB/DB Charlie Humphries, OL/DL Bryan Strawn, WR/DL Jack Dailey, OL/DL Brandon Massalon
Key newcomers: OL/DL Jackson Warren, WR/DL Tucker Trask
Date Opponent W/L Score
Aug 26 at Trinity Collegiate L 34-8
Sep 02 WW KING L 48-34
Sep 09 JEFFERSON DAVIS W 56-0
Sep 16 at Greenwood Christian L 40-21
Sep 23 at Andrew Jackson Academy W 54-30
Sep 30 PATRICK HENRY L 58-6
Oct 07 JAMES ISLAND CHRISTIAN L 30-20
Oct 14 at Coastal Christian L 58-22
Oct 21 CLARENDON HALL L 60-6
Oct 28 at Faith Christian W 50-18
HOME GAMES in CAPS *Playoff game
Note: All games start at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 24 at Jefferson Davis
Aug. 31 RIDGE CHRISTIAN*
Sept. 07 FAITH CHRISTIAN*
Sept. 14 at Cathedral Academy*
Sept. 21 CHARLESTON COLLEGIATE
Sept. 28 COASTAL CHRISTIAN PREP
Oct. 05 at St. John's
Oct. 12 ANDREW JACKSON ACADEMY
Oct. 19 at James Island Christian*
Oct. 26 at Patrick Henry
Players to watch
Offense: Gibson Achurch, QB
The third-year starter will work with the same offensive coordinator for the first time at Beaufort Academy and should have a decent grasp of the schemes. The dual-threat senior will work with a young supporting cast to try and keep the Eagles offense up to speed. With some polishing, coach Wheatley Alford believes his signal caller could play college football.
Defense: Charlie Humprhies, DB
Humphries is a senior leader on the defense and a textbook tackler, according to Achurch. Humphries also brings experience to the running back spot and ripped off a long touchdown run during a preseason jamboree.
Three keys to the season
2012 Roster (in numerical order)
No. Name Position Height Weight Class
2 Charlie Humphries RB/DB 5-9 155 Sr.
5 Alex Melville WR/DB 5-7 130 Fr.
7 Gibson Achurch QB/LB 6-0 175 Sr.
9 Tucker Trask WR/DL 5-9 140 Soph.
12 Clay Melville QB/DB 5-8 135 Soph.
20 Xavier Westergard WR/DB 5-7 155 Soph.
21 Reyn Robinson RB/LB 5-8 150 Soph.
23 Alex Alford WR/DB 5-6 110 Fr.
24 Charles Thompson RB/WR 5-8 140 Soph.
30 Ashton Guest WR/DB 5-8 150 Soph.
42 Jack Dailey WR/DL 5-10 165 Jr.
50 Brandon Massalon OL/DL 5-11 220 Jr.
52 Gavin Palmer OL/DL 5-7 150 8th
66 Michael Webb OL/DL 6-0 165 Fr.
67 Jackson Warren OL/DL 5-10 200 8th
68 Bryan Strawn OL/DL 5-11 230 Sr.
70 Michael Bass OL/DL 5-8 160 Soph.